What is Mysticism?
Mysticism favors revelatory experience over logical explanation, and at the same time, rejects literalizing mystical doctrines (the trinity, ressurection, atonement, etc.) into superstitious and/or literal (illusionary) meanings, but rather seeing such doctrines as symbolic, mythological accounts, metaphorical words that do not capture truth, but merely point in that direction. Mystics of all religious cultures, reach the higher consciousness of entry into the "unknowing" of knowing, the ambiguous waters and sea of relativity of indistinct and unclear outlines into living life in both uncertainty and insecurity, yet with compassion and gratitude. This is the ability to see the self, God and existence as one essence, a universal one existence, in darkness of faith as unconditional, without literalism and formulations, but rather symbolic and metaphorical. Despite various differences pertaining to religious experiences, there is a striking similarity to one divine force that lives in all life, and every person, regardless of culture, transcending all creeds, dogmas, sexual orientation and societal structure in inclusiveness. Mysticism is beyond intellectual reason and discursive thinking, aware of an intuitive life force, un-penetrable with language and concept.
There are varying degrees of mysticism, from theism to pantheism, to atheism and agnosticism, as mysticism is basically the ability to perceive the hidden meanings found in art, poetry, music, myth and other forms of creative movement that rest apart from structure, conceptual explanations and languistic definitions. In many cases, even within the three major theistic religions, Judism, Christianity and Muslim religious the idea of an external deity dissapears to the internal self, the divine as the ground of being deep within the selve non-dual with existence. Alignnment with higher consciousness with this life force is an individual experience undefined from human words, as language acts as a straight jacket on experience and cannot articulate in intellectual terms intuitive meaning, but only express in metaphorical terms.
Mysticism is not magic, astrology and numerology, but rather, as one Zen expression relates, finding the original face of self, the no-self, that existed before one was born and is only perceived in the prelanguage of perception that usually is found in meditation and contemplation. There is no denial of teachers, instructional words and conceptual ideas, however, to live in reality, they must remain relative and communicative only. Yet the moment one leaves ambiguity with trust and dependence in teachers and formulas to anything absolute in answer of fears, is when the mystery and fullness of life is lost to the interior protection with degrees of fundamentalism. Fears must not be covered over but accepted "in spite of." It is only there where is found the courage and joy of living. This is the consciousness that looses the self as a separate entity into the metaphysical intuition of Being as the center in terms not of intellectual conception or theology but that of experience.
M. Scott Peck, from, The Different Drum, describes Mysticism as:
"Mysticism," a much-maligned word, is not an easy one to define. It takes many forms. yet through the ages, mystics of every shade of religious belief have spoke of unity, of an underlying connectedness between things; between men and women, between us and the other creatures and even inanimate matter as well, a fitting together according to an ordinarily invisible fabric underlying the cosmos. Remember the experience when, during community, I suddenly saw my previously hated neighbor as myself. Smelling his dead cigar butts and hearing his guttural snoring, I was filled with utter distaste for him until that strange mystical moment when I saw myself sitting in his chair and realized he was the sleeping part of me and I the waking part of him. We were suddenly connected. More than connected, we were integral parts of the same unity.
Mysticism also obviously has to do with mystery. Mystics acknowledge the enormity of the unknown, but rather than being frightened by it, they seek to penetrate ever deeper into it that they may understand more--even with the realization that the more they understand, the greater the mystery will become. They love mystery, in dramatic contrast to those in Stage II - Fundamentalists, who need simple, clear-cut dogmatic structures and have little taste for the unknown and unknowable. While Stage IV- Mystics, men and women will enter religion in order to approach mystery, people in Stage II, to a considerable extent, enter religion in order to escape from it. Thus there is the confusion of people entering not only into religion, but into the same religion--and sometimes the same denomination--not only for different motives, but for totally opposite motives. It makes no sense until we come to understand the roots of religious pluralism in terms of developmental stages.
Finally, mystics throughout the ages have not only spoken of emptiness but extolled its virtues. I have labeled Stage IV communal as well as mystical not because all mystics or even a majority of them live in communes but because among human beings they are the ones most aware that the whole world is a community and realize that what divides us into warring camps is precisely the lack of this awareness. Having become practiced at emptying themselves of preconceived notions and prejudices and able to perceive the invisible underlying fabric that connects everything, they do not think in terms of factions or blocs or even national boundaries; they know this to be one world."
Mysticism recognizes nonduality, while human life exists in duality, that of the personality or ego and that of an inner self or a soul. Others describe it as a conscious and a subconscious. The subconscious is then at one with, that is connected as the same with, the collective unconscious or that of the whole. The whole are the subconscious thoughts of the collective combined as one, the ground of all being and the source of being of each one of us. This is also called the unconditional life force or love, the primordial wisdom, the Buddhist womb, the cosmic mirror, the universal mind and so on. So it is the human self beyond ego that exists as part of the nondual whole, the energy that emanates all life.
Mysticism is the awareness of life absent from the past and the future, all actions contained in the present, in the eternal now. It is the ability to perceive the universe vertical, as opposed to horizontal, all things happening simultaneously, yet perceived differently.. It is nondualism in all as one, yet distinct, as all existing simultaneously, each action an illusionary result, yet separate only in form in the dual nature of man. It is the ability to see self as the whole and the whole as the self, for "all things are in Brahman." In this, the stages of one's growth is not that of progressive forward movement, but rather, the increase in awareness, in perceptional abilities of what already exists. It is the nonduality of fate and freedom, as all things can be predetermined, yet simultaneously being only the result of our choice. Alan W. Watts explains:
Man's free choice does not precede the action of Grace, nor does it follow it, and it cannot be said that the initiative comes from either side. The two acts accrue simultaneously, because they are two aspects of the same process; man's ascent to God is God's decent to men. The theologians are confused because they make too hard and fast, a distinction between God and man, a distinction which, in view of the Christ symbol, the God-man, they should have avoided. AS St. Athanaisas said,
"He became man that we might be made God."
Therefore, in Christian terms, the descent of God into man as Christ is a historical symbol of an eternal event, a union with God and man in which neither cease to exist and a union which achieves realization from both sides at once. Meister Eckhart puts it in this way;
It is as if one stood before a high mountain and cried, "Are you there?" The echo comes back, "Are you there?" If one cries, :"Come out!" the echo answers, "Come out!"
The echo only follows the call because there is physical space between man and mountain, and because the mountain has no tongue and cannot call and be echoed by the man. But God and man have a closer union, and Eckhart says that,
"the eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me."
Realization is not predestined to come at a certain time because predestination is an utterly limited half-truth. it may come at any moment, for that union already exists eternally in the whole, simultaneously, in the vertical realm of nowness. Fate is only the other face of freedom, and we may say that you are fated to realize it at a certain time only because you choose to see it at that time.
Life as we know it, consists of matter and energy. Light and sound are aspects of this vibrational energy, energy that brings forth matter. Light itself has many vibrational frequencies, that which are undetectable to the human being and yet they exist. Within the realm of light there are the frequencies of x-ray, ultra violet, microwave, and so on. It is has also been observed that all life, all matter, has frequencies that emanate from the energy it contains or that waves pass through. Some are low frequencies and others higher.
Tom Chetwynd from "Zen & The Kingdom of Heaven," relates:
"The ego has many delusions and limitations. The ego of Western people is particularly identified with the intellect and with the senses. It would be difficult to convince us that we have a fuzzy view: to us the world looks pristine and we have hardly a shadow of doubt that we have the whole picture clearly in sight. This picture is clear enough, but limited. From this particular ego base, the human psyche can feel very self-assured, precisely because its outlook is beyond and superficial. This particular ego mentality is reinforced by the majority, which shares limited view. As a result, feeling and intuition have been woefully neglected, and they have erupted into an erratic and irrational form with quite disastrous consequences.
If it were only sexual compulsions that the ego could not control, perhaps there would not be so much cause for concern. As it is, I sometimes see the figure of the human maniac, the drunk in charge of the dangerous vehicle of the human psyche. His eyes are horizontal, his nose is vertical, and he's an egoist - like me. I know all about him.
This is why the transformation of the ego is so important both for psychology and religion. The final goal of human psychology is the transformation of this very ego into the true self, which can be likened to the transformation of the acorn into the oak tree, or the egg into the bird of paradise. And it is in this work, that meditation is extremely helpful - and may even be indispensable. In fact, Jung himself meditated.
The ordinary ego consciousness sees everything according to its own preconceived ideas. Even the most broad-minded people, with the widest possible human view, perceive reality through the filter of the ego, with it's particular set of senses and bent of mind. But still, this remains our perception of reality as it is in itself, you can most certainly allow for the fact that there is something beyond what you perceive and independent of the way you perceive it.
This direct apprehension sometimes comes in a flash. It is a realization that spreads through life on the surface and affects its dramatically. It is something that comes from beyond the depths of the individual soul, from the spirit, and it reflects something at work throughout the universe. It is most often experienced through meditation when the ego is annihilated. The individual erases his or her ordinary outlook, throws the plumb line into the deepest reaches of human life, and just keeps on letting out the line. In meditation, since you are cutting out thought and rooting out images, you eventually and inevitably reach a state without thought or image. But you are also emptied of nothing. You may pass through a stage of sinking into a black abyss, a negative emptiness, but this too is just an idea.
It is a powerful experience and corresponds, in my mind, to the indwelling Spirit of God, stripped of all images and preconceived ideas. Although the experience is totally empty, it is empty in the manner of the womb of nature. Anything could come out of it, and as it happens it has. This very world has come out of it, and each of us with out particular set of senses to perceive it. This is the relative world. Everything only appears as it does because of a vibrant relationship with the senses, with the mind and the way it is made. But since both mind and world come from the same source, there is no need to apportion which contributes what. Reality becomes whole and seamless again - just it, reality as it is. Nor is it in any way separate from the empty womb: the teeming city and the empty womb both manifest the same reality.
The ego is an alien. It has alienated itself, and protects its position. Once but off, it is embattled. It is also short-lived and therefore frightened, whereas the non-ego - everything that is not "you" - is eternal. When you are able to identify with larger reality, as opposed to the small minded ego, you are no longer cut off, no longer short-lived. As St. John the Divine said, "To know God, that is eternal life."
From The Meister Eckhart Site,
"The word "mysticism", "mystic" and the like comes from the Greek verb myein (closing one's eyes and mouth), from which comes mysterion (mystery) and the like. Mysticism, then, is not some kind of "secretism", of refusing to reveal a truth, but a specific way of knowing something, in which way one does not know what he knows and can not tell adequately what he knows.
There is a lot of discussion among the scholars about Plato's so called "secret doctrine". Plato himself, in his 7th epistle, writes about a kind of knowledge, about which no one can speak or write:
"Yet this much I know-that if the things were written or put into words, it would be done best by me, and that, if they were written badly, I should be the person most pained. Again, if they had appeared to me to admit adequately of writing and exposition, what task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to write what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things into the light for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing for men that there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this topic-except for some few, who are able with a little teaching to find it out for themselves. As for the rest, it would fill some of them quite illogically with a mistaken feeling of contempt, and others with lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though they had learnt something high and mighty."
In the Bible there is a commandment that fits perfectly to our current discussion: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you". Think also of the Zen masters that welcomed their students by hitting them or saying some insult to them. This was not to humiliate them. It was just the first lesson: there is nothing to learn here, there is nothing to be taught, you are a fool, who seek the truth like if truth were in whatever place or person or book outside yourself and your place and your book.
An expert is someone that knows perfectly or better than anyone else a specific topic. A mystic is not and can not become an expert and a writer on mysticism can not become an expert, because mystical knowledge can never be perfect and can not be taught to people that don't have it already! It is not "out there" to be found, it is not "out there" to be taught, it is inside and it will remain thus, with the only possibility of offering some hints to specific persons that you see they can find it out for themselves and in themselves"
Thomas Merton on "The Metaphysical Consciousness.
Excerpt from Zen and the Birds of Appetite, by Thomas Merton, pp. 23-26,
"The metaphysical consciousness starts not from the thinking and self-aware subject but from Being, ontologically seen to be beyond and prior to the subject-object division. Underlying the subjective experience of the individual self there is an immediate experience of Being. This is totally different from an experience of self-consciousness. It is completely nonobjective. It has in it none of the split and alienation that occurs when the subject becomes aware of itself as a quasi-object. The consciousness of Being (whether considered positively or negatively and apophatically as in Buddhism) is an immediate experience that goes beyond reflexive awareness. It is not "consciousness of" but pure consciousness, in which the subject as such "disappears."
Posterior to this immediate experience of a ground which transcends experience, emerges the subject with its self-awareness. but, as the Oriental religions and Christian mysticism have stressed, this self-aware subject is not final or absolute; it is a provisional self-construction which exists, for practical purposes, only in a sphere of relativity. Its existence has meaning in so far as it does not become fixated or centered upon itself as ultimate, learns to function not as its own center but "from God" and "for others." The Christian term "from God" implies what the nontheistic religious philosophies conceive as a hypothetical Single Center of all beings, what T.S. Elliot called "the still point of the turning world," but which Buddhism for example visualized not as "point" but as "Void." (And of course the void is not visualized at all.)
In brief, this form of consciousness assumes a totally different kind of self-awareness from that of the Cartesian (ego-self) thinking-self which is its own justification and its own center. Here the individual is aware of himself as a self-to-be-dissolved in a self-giving, in love, in "letting go," in ecstasy, in God - there are many ways of phrasing it.
The self is not its own center and does not orbit around itself; it is centered on God, the one center of all, which is "everywhere and nowhere," in whom all are encountered, from whom all proceed. Thus from the very start this consciousness is disposed to encounter "the other" with whom it is already united anyway "in God."
The metaphysical intuition of Being is an intuition of a ground of openness, indeed of a kind of ontological openness and an infinite generosity which communicates itself to everything that is. "The good is diffusive of itself," or "God is love." Openness is not something to be acquired, but a radical gift that has been lost and must be recovered (though it is still in principle "there" in the roots of our created being). This is more or less metaphysical language, but there is also a non-metaphysical way of stating this. It does not consider God either as Immanent of as Transcendent but a grace and presence, hence neither as a "Center" imagined somewhere "out there" nor "within ourselves." It encounters him not as Being but as Freedom and Love. I would say from the outset that the important thing is not to oppose this gracious and prophetic concept to the metaphysical and mystical idea of union with God, but to show where the two ideas really see to express the same kind of consciousness of at least approach it, in varying ways.
St. Teresa is a classic example of Christian (mystical) experience. The mystical consciousness of St. Teresa implies a certain basic attitude toward the self. The thinking and feeling and willing self is not the starting point of all verifiable reality and of all experience. The primal truth, the ground of all being and truth, is in God the Creator of al that is. The starting point of all Christian belief and experience (in this context) is the primal reality of God as Pure Actuality. The "existence of God" is not something seen as deductible from our conscious awareness of our own existence. On the contrary, the experience of the classic Christian mystics is rooted in a metaphysic of being, in which God is intuited as "He Who Is," as the supreme reality, pure Being. The self-centered awareness of the ego is of course a pragmatic psychological reality, but once there has been an inner illumination of pure reality,k an awareness of the Divine, the empirical self is seen by comparison to be "nothing," that is to say contingent, evanescent, relatively unreal, real only in relation to its source and end in God, considered not as object but as free ontological source of one's own existence and subjectivity. To understand this attitude, we have to remember that in this view of things Being is not an abstract objective idea but a fundamental concrete intuition directly apprehended in a personal experience that is incontrovertible and inexpressible."
Thomas Merton on "Transcendent Experience," or "Mystical Experience."
From Zen and the Birds of Appetite, pp. 74-76:
It may be satisfactory if all one wants to describe is an experience on the on the aesthetic or even moral level. but as soon as this kind of language is used to express a transcendent religious or metaphysical experience, such as a mystical ecstasy, Zen Satori, and so on, it not only becomes misleading but it involves our thought in irreconcilable contradictions.
For this very reason it is basic to Zen, to Sufism and to Christian mysticism (to mention only those approaches to transcendent experience with which the writer is familiar) to radically and unconditionally question the ego which appears to be the subject of the transcendent experience, and thus of course to radically question the whole nature of the experience itself precisely as "experience." Are we any longer able to speak of an experience when the subject of the experience is not a limited, well-defined , empirical subject" Or, to put it in other words, are we able to speak of "consciousness" when the conscious subject is no longer able to be aware of itself as separate and unique? Then if the empirical ego is conscious at all, is it conscious of itself as transcended, left behind, irrelevant, illusory, and indeed as the root of all ignorance (Avidya) ?
Once this has been stated we see that it throws light on the terms in which one can speak of such a transcendent experience as regressive. Even if one speaks of "regression in the service of the ego" it seems to have little or nothing to do with the authentically transcendent experience, which is a matter of superconsciousness rather than a lapse into preconsciousness of unconsciousness. (The Zen "unconscious" is metaphysical rather than psychological.) The traditional term in 'Christian mysticism, raptus, or "rapture," implies not the mode of being "carried away" that belongs properly to aesthetic or to erotic experience (though erotic imagery is used to describe it in certain types of Christian mysticism) but of being ontologically carried "above oneself" (supra se). In the Christian tradition the focus of this "experience" is found not in the individual self as a separate, limited and temporal ego, but in Christ, or the Holy Spirit "within" this self. In Zen it is Self with a capital S, that is to say precisely not the ego-self. This Self is the Void.
It is true that statements about complete annihilation of the ego have always to be taken with serious qualifications and are apparently intended to be so taken, especially by Christian mystics, and yet it is evident that the identity or the person which is the subject of this transcendent consciousness is not the ego as isolated and contingent, but the person as "found" and "actualized" in union with Christ. In other words, in Christian mystical tradition the identify of the mystic is never purely and simply the mere empirical ego - still less the neurotic and narcissistic self - but the "person" who is identified with Christ, one with Christ. "I live now not I but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
In the Christian tradition, then, we find this personal transcendence referred to as "having the mind of Christ" or knowing and seeing "in the Spirit of Christ." Spirit here being strictly personal, not just a vague reference to a certain inner emotional climate. This Spirit, who "fathoms everything even the abyss of God" and "understands the thoughts of God" as man understands his own heart, is "given us" in Christ as a transcendent superconsciousness of God and of "the Father" (see 1 Cor. 2, Romans 8, etc.)
More specifically, all transcendent experience is for the Christian participation in "the mind of Christ" - "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . who emptied himself . . . obedient onto death . . Therefore God raised him and conferred upon him a name above all names." (Phil. 2:5-10) This dynamic of emptying and of transcendence accurately defines the transformation of the Christian consciousness in Christ. It is a kenotic transformation, an emptying of all the contents of the ego-consciousness to become a void in which the light of God or the glory of God, the full radiation of the infinite reality of His Being and Love are manifested.
Eckhart says in perfectly orthodox and traditional Christian terms, "In giving us His love God has given us His Holy Ghost so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself. We love God with His own love; awareness of it deifies us." D.T. Suzuki quotes this with approval, comparing it with the Prajna wisdom of Zen. (Suzuki, Mysticism; East and West. p. 40)
Now that in Buddhism also the highest development of consciousness is that by which the individual ego is completely emptied and becomes identified with the enlightened Buddha, or rather finds itself to be in reality the enlightened Buddha mind. Nirvana is not the consciousness of an ego that is aware of itself as having crossed over to "the other shore" (to be on "another shore" is the same as not having crossed over), but the Absolute Ground-Consciousness of the Void, in which there are no shores. Thus the Buddhist enters into the self-emptying and enlightenment of Buddha as the Christian enters into the self-emptying (crucifixion) and glorification (resurrection and ascension) of Christ. The chief difference between the two is that the former is existential and ontological, the later is theological and personal. But "person" here must be distinguished from " the individual empirical ego."
This explains why in all these higher religious traditions the path to transcendent realization is a path of ascetic self-emptying and "self-naughting" and not at all a path of self-affirmation, of self-fulfillment, or of "perfect attainment." That is why it is felt necessary by these traditions to speak in strong negative terms about what happens to the ego-subject, which instead of being "realized" in its own limited selfhood is spoken of rather as simply vanishing out of the picture altogether. The reason for this is not that the person loses his metaphysical or even physical status, or regresses into nonidentity, but rather that his real status is quite other than what appears empirically to us to be his status. Hence it becomes overwhelmingly important for us to become detached from our everyday conception of ourselves as potential subjects for special and unique experiences, or as candidates for realization, attainment and fulfillment. In other words, this mans that a spiritual guide worth his salt will conduct a ruthless campaigning against all forms of delusion arising out of spiritual ambition and self-complacency which aim to establish the ego in spiritual glory. That is why a St. John of the Cross is so hostile to visions, ecstasies an all forms of "special experience." That is why the Zen Masters say" If you meet the Buddha, kill him."
Here we must be very circumspect. The "holy Object" must be destroyed in so far as it is an idol embodying the secret desires, aspirations and powers of the ego-self. On the other hand it is futile and even deadly to simply sweep aside all other idols in order to confirm as absolute and ultimate the idol of an ego-self supposedly endowed with supreme autonomy and able to follow its own omnipotent spiritual whims. This is not spiritual freedom but ultimate narcissism."
Excerpt from F.C. Happold (1970), "Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology."
"What is mysticism? The word 'mystic' has its origin in the Greek mysteries. A mystic was one who had been initiated into these mysteries, through which he had gained an esoteric knowledge of divine things and been 'reborn into eternity.' His object was to break through the world of history and time into that of eternity and timelessness. The method was through initiation ceremonies of the sort so vividly described by the Latin writer, Apuleius, in The Golden Ass. Through the mysteries the initiated entered into something holy and numinous, a secret wisdom about which it was unlawful for him to speak. The word 'mystery' (mysterion) comes from the Greek verb muo, to shut or close the lips or eyes.
In the course of time the word [mysticism] came to an extended, indeed a different meaning. In that syncretism of Greek and Oriental philosophy which occurred in the centuries immediately preceding the birth of Christ, known as Neoplatonism, it came to mean a particular sort of approach to the whole problem of reality, in which the intellectual, and more especially the intuitive, faculties came into play. As a result of the fusion of Christian and Neoplatonist ideas in the early centuries of the Christian era, a system of so-called mystical theology came into existence, which was one of the main foundations of Christian mysticism.
To speak more generally, mysticism has its fount in what is the raw material of all religion and is also the inspiration of much of philosophy, poetry, art, and music, a consciousness of a beyond, of something which, though it is interwoven with it, is not of the external world of material phenomena, of an unseen over and above the seen. In the developed mystic this consciousness is present in an intense and highly specialized form.
The mystical element enters into the commoner forms of religious experience when religious feeling surpasses its rational content, that is, when the hidden, non-rational, unconscious elements predominate and determine the emotional life and the intellectual attitude. In the true mystic there is an extension of normal consciousness, a release of latent powers and a widening of vision, so that aspects of truth unplumbed by the rational intellect are revealed to him. Both in feeling and thought he apprehends an immanence of the temporal in the eternal and the eternal in the temporal. In the religious mystic there is a direct experience of the Presence of God. Though he may not be able to describe it in words, though he may not be able to logically demonstrate its validity, to the mystic his experience is fully and absolutely valid and is surrounded with complete certainty. He has been 'there,' he has 'seen,' he 'knows.' With St. Paul, in the poem by F. W. H. Myers, he can say:
Who so has felt the spirit of the Highest
Cannot confound nor doubt Him nor deny.
Yea with one voice, O world, though thou deniest,
Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.
'Though he may not be able to describe it in words, though he may not be able logically to demonstrate its validity...' Let us be quite frank. To a man of the twentieth century, the heir of centuries of thought-techniques which had their roots in Greek logic -- conditioned, consciously or unconsciously, by the scientific approach of our time -- that may seem alien and incomprehensible. How, he may object, can anything be accepted which not only cannot be rationally proved but which also cannot even be described in words? It is a challenge that anyone setting out to write a study of mysticism must try to meet.
If the reader's initial approach is one of skepticism, I am quite content. I would, however...ask him to put to himself these questions: What is the nature of Reality, that which ultimately is? How much is our picture of it, what we know, or think we know, dependent on what we are able to see of it with our very limited range of perception? May it not be at least a possibility that, if our range of perception were enlarged, we should see it quite differently?
Not only have mystics been found in all ages, in all parts of the world and in all religious systems, but also mysticism has manifested itself in similar or identical forms wherever the mystical consciousness has been present. Because of this it has sometimes been called the Perennial Philosophy. Out of their experience and their reflection on it have come the following assertions:
1. This phenomenal world of matter and individual consciousness is only a partial reality and is the manifestation of a Divine Ground in which all partial realities have their being.
2. It is of the nature of man that not only can he have knowledge of this Divine Ground by inference, but also he can realize it by direct intuition, superior to discursive reason, in which the knower is in some way united with the known.
3. The nature of man is not a single but a dual one. He has not one but two selves, the phenomenal ego, of which he is chiefly conscious and which he tends to regard as his true self, and a non-phenomenal, eternal self, an inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within him, which is his true self. It is possible for a man, if he so desires and is prepared to make the necessary effort, to identify himself with his true self and so with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature.
4. It is the chief end of man's earthly existence to discover and identify himself with his true self. By doing so, he will come to an intuitive knowledge of the Divine Ground and so apprehend Truth as it really is, and not as to our limited human perceptions it appears to be. Not only that, he will enter into a state of being which has been given different names, eternal life, salvation, enlightenment, etc.
Further, the Perennial Philosophy rests on two fundamental convictions:
1. Though it may be to a great extent atrophied and exist only potentially in most men, men possess an organ or faculty which is capable of discerning spiritual truth, and, in its own spheres, this faculty is as much to be relied on as are other organs of sensation in theirs.
2. In order to be able to discern spiritual truth men must in their essential nature be spiritual; in order to know That which they call God, they must be, in some way, partakers of the divine nature; potentially at least there must be some kinship between God and the human soul. Man is not a creature set over against God. He participates in the divine life; he is, in a real sense, 'united' with God in his essential nature, for, as the Flemish contemplative, the Blessed John Ruysbroeck, put it:
"This union is within us of our naked nature and were this nature to be separated from God it would fall into nothingness."
This is the faith of the mystic. It springs out of his particular experience and his reflection on that experience. It implies a particular view of the nature of the universe and of man, and it seems to conflict with other conceptions of the nature of the universe and of man which are also the result of experience and reflection in it.
There is a poem by the late Latin poet and philosopher, Boethius, which, translated, opens as follows:
This discord in the pact of things,
This endless war 'between truth and truth,
That singly held, yet give the lie
To him who seeks to hold them both...
In the world, constituted as it is, men are faced not with one single truth but with several 'truths,' not with one but with several pictures of reality. They are thus conscious of a 'discord in the pact of things,' whereby to hold to one 'truth' seems to be to deny another. One part of their experience draws to one, another to another. It has been the eternal quest of mankind to find the one ultimate Truth, that final synthesis in which all partial truths are resolved. It may be that the mystic has glimpsed this synthesis."
In the mystical thought found in Christendom, those mystics of the fifth century enabled to protect themselves from the hierarchy of the Catholic church and her watchful eye, punishing those departing from the power structure of beliefs, branding as heretics with torture and death. Many, in order to escape this possible outcome, wrote their "Mystical Theology" under the accepted name, "Dionsysius the Areopagite," who was considered by the church to have been a follower of St. Paul, as his first Athenian convert with apostolic authority. Therefore, many mystics played along with this Catholic game in order to escape persecution and signed their Mystical Theology under his name.
It was here where Christianity was introduced to Neoplatonism and metaphysical thought and discipline of India and elements of the Perennial Philosophy.